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Online sales to grow $2.4 trillion from 2021-2026

Global e-commerce is set to boom.

A new study predicts that global e-commerce sales growth is set to significantly outpace that of store-based commerce.

According to the latest edition of the annual Future of the Digital Shelf Report from Edge by Ascential, online worldwide sales will reach $2.4 trillion in gross merchandise value (GMV, or total value of goods sold) in 2026. This means e-commerce will account for almost 40% of global retail sales by 2026, with store-based retail dropping to 60% from 69% of total sales.

In addition, from 2021 to 2026, Edge by Ascential expects e-commerce will make up 63% of all total GMV growth, outpacing every other store-based retail channel. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, e-commerce activity increased by 37% worldwide, which Edge by Ascential analysts say caused advancement and evolution throughout the entire online shopping ecosystem.

The study indicates the majority of shoppers now begin their product searches on digital channels, with one in three store purchases beginning online. And when in-store, shoppers are increasingly engaging with digital experiences through mobile apps, QR codes, and social media and payment.

Other interesting findings include:

  • Edge by Ascential has observed clients lose up to more than one-fifth (22%) of their weekly sales for every day their product is out of stock.
  • Search is now the preferred way to shop, and an entry point for product and brand discovery.
  • For products sold online, a product detail page and online packaging are as critical as the packaging and promotional material for products displayed on a physical shelf.

Recent data from Adobe confirms that e-commerce is becoming a $1 trillion-plus market. Online consumer spending in the U.S. will pass the $1 trillion mark for the first time this year, according to Adobe. Inflation is playing a role, with $3.8 billion in e-commerce growth being driven by higher prices in the first two months of 2022. In 2022, Adobe expects U.S. consumers could pay as much as $27 billion more online for the same amount of goods due to inflation.

“Our data shows that e-commerce will be the largest driver of retail growth over the next few years, with online retail accounting for almost 40% of global retail sales by 2026,” said Deren Baker, CEO of Edge by Ascential. “Increasingly, product discovery, and even the whole shopper journey, is taking place on social media sites like Facebook and TikTok, which expanded their commerce operations during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are taking leaps in their digital transformation following the lead of Amazon. As retail enters a new generation where the shopper path-to-purchase is most likely to start on a mobile phone or a laptop, the digital shelf is the primary place where shoppers discover, select, purchase and engage with products online, and therefore is fundamental to a brand’s future growth.”

The study was created with data from Edge by Ascential’s proprietary analytics tool, Retail Market Monitor, which analyzes the retail ecosystem by sector, geography and channel. Retail sales data includes online and offline operations, and only includes chain retailers, of which Edge Retail Insight covers almost 2,500 worldwide.

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